alumni about Princeton's baseball history
September 18, 2002
Along with the letter from Moose Joline '47 about
Princeton baseball history, you ran a reunion photo of 1942's class baby
Woody Rutter throwing in the first ball at the Yale-Princeton game in
It was then traditional to bring the class baby on the field in some unique
way. The previous year, I believe, a miniature car arrived at the mound
and amazingly, like clowns in the circus, about five men and the class
baby squeezed out for the first toss. But '42 outdid that by landing an
autogyro (predecessor to the helicopter) on the mound and out stepped
The crowd roared. Still, at our fifth we tried to out-do '42 by having
three full-grown elephants parade onto the field with our class baby Richard
Wolf atop one of them. All three elephants kneeled down, raised their
trunks to salute President Dodds, and then off stepped our five-year-old
for the first pitch. (A photographer recorded the occasion for the New
York Times the next day.) I don't think any class thereafter could
match either the autogyro or the elephant.
Not to be forgotten, '44 brought back two of the same elephants 35 years
later for our 40th reunion to parade down Prospect Street for the second
time. But there was no Yale-Princeton baseball game.
I was very pleased to read, in the June 5 issue, of the
feats of early baseball players including my grandfather, William
Smith Schenck, Class of 1880. During my early life my mother, on occasion,
would relate the tale of my grandfather's use of a "chest protector"
during the Yale game at reunions in 1880. Since she was not born until
1894, the story is clearly hearsay, but I am thankful to have your confirmation
of the incident.
As I recall my mother's description, for the Yale game
in 1880 my grandfather walked in from his farm (now The Chapin School)
or perhaps from his town home at 42 Mercer Street and joined
the team for breakfast at a local eatery. The hot foods were placed atop
a thick rubber mat to protect the table top from scorch marks, and my
grandfather, knowing the pitcher for the game to be somewhat wild, took
one of the mats and stuffed it under his shirt for chest protection.
As anticipated, during the course of the game a fast pitch struck my grandfather
directly on the chest knocking him over but causing no harm. He got up
and completed the game, which I believe Princeton won. A representative
of the Spalding Sporting Goods Company happened to be in the stands and
after the game asked my grandfather how he had withstood the hit by the
pitch without injury. Grandfather exposed the rubber mat but, unfortunately,
did not request compensation or royalties for his imagination and foresight.
Thus was born the baseball chest protector originally, if not still,
made and sold by the Spalding Sporting Goods Company.
I have related this tale over the years to several Princeton acquaintances
each of whom has greeted my presentation with great skepticism
or outright denial of its authenticity. Therefore I am grateful to receive
your report and would be most appreciative of knowing your source for
the reference in you From the Editor column to substantiate my own knowledge
of the event.
I enjoyed your thumbnail
sketch of Princeton baseball history, especially the photo of
Woody Rutter throwing out the first ball in June '47! Woody's father,
Joe Rutter, had been my camp counselor five or six years before, when
he was a pitcher for Princeton.
On that '47 reunion day, I believe that Bob Wolcott pitched
a 1-0 win over Yale. And my best memory is that I drove onto the
field in the P-rade in an army surplus jeep with about 20 classmates hanging
Without in any way belittling Ed Donovan's many successes,
I would like to mention that you left out a historic baseball season
that of 1945, when Charlie Caldwell, more widely known for his football
teams, coached us Tigers to the Eastern intercollegiate baseball
championship. He was followed as coach by Wes Fessler, Matt Davidson,
and Emerson Dickman before Eddie took the reins, although Eddie had been
assisting since Bill Clarke's last year.
Thoughts of baseball, again. A storied past and a storied current history.
After reading the Letter
from the Editor in the June 5 PAW, let's set the record straight for
the past quarter-century of Princeton baseball.
Rather than discuss those that were "absent", perhaps we can
chronicle the history with those who were "present." Too numerous
to mention individually, may we look at their achievements in the program
from a team approach?
Five EIBL or Ivy League Championships: 1985, 1991, 1996, 2000, and 2001.
Seven consecutive Gehrig Division Championships since the inception of
division play: 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000 2001, and 2002. Five College
NCAA World Series Regional Appearances: 1985, 1991, 1996, 2000, and 2001.
Also, in the past 20 years, more than 20 Princeton graduates have signed
professional baseball contracts, and although they did not all reach the
major league level, many distinguished themselves in professional baseball.
Some of these graduates are continuing to work in the front office and
administration of Major League Baseball.
Noting the picture in your article on the fifth reunion of the Class of
'42, it was many members of the same class that spearheaded the growth
of The Friends of Princeton Baseball.
During the time, since "82", The Robert L. Peters '42, The Edward
Donovan, and The Robert H. B. Baldwin '42 endowments were created. In
addition, The Robert L. Peters, Jr. '42 Award, given to an alumnus was
also established. Significant that Larry Luchino '67, Dick Sisler '53,
and Moe Berg '23 received this award as their names were mentioned in
your article. Verification for this information is easily obtained at
the Office of Athletic Public Affairs for Media Relations in Jadwin Gym.
No, not uneven, but smooth goes the course of Princeton baseball in the
last quarter-century. The achievements are noteworthy, and in many cases
have surpassed those of the first 75 years. The program continues to build
on the foundations of the 19th and 20th centuries as it moves into the
Tom O'Connell, coach 1982-1997
Scott Bradley, coach 1998-present
Congratulations on your review of the "storied past"
of Princeton baseball (From
the Editor, June 5). However, may I point out that in your review
you overlooked what was one of the most storied three year eras of Princeton
baseball? The 1949-51 teams won two Eastern League championships and tied
one. The 1951 team was recognized
in the April 2000 (page 56) issue of the PAW. In a follow up letter,
published in the June 7 issue, I indicated that the strong pitching staff
of Brightman, Churigi, Reichel, and Sisler pitched us to the Eastern League
championship and then on to the College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska.
This was the only Princeton team to achieve that honor. Emerson Dickman
was our coach in those three season. Eddie Donovan took over in 1952.
Finally, the picture of the crowd at the Alumni Day game at Reunions in
1947 was a poignant reminder of what fun it was for the players to play
Yale in front of such an enthusiastic audience.